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Sunday, March 18, 2012

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Garmin nuLink! 1695 review

Garmin nuLink 1695 review

Hands on with the Garmin nuLink 1695

The Garmin nüLink! 1695 is Garmin’s second connected navigator, updating the nuvi 1690 with trafficTrends (historical road speed database) and myTrends, which allows the device to learn your preferred routes. In addition, the 1695 offers a 5” screen, whereas the nuvi 1690 sports a 4.3” screen.

Connected hardware

The first thing I noticed about the 1695 was its size. This isn’t a super-thin 3700 series model. When you combine a 5” screen with a cellular modem, you get some bulk. Here’s how it compares to other models:

 

Model Thickness Weight Screen size
3790T .35” 4 oz. 4.3”
1695 .70” 8.2 oz. 5.0”
1690 .75” 6.2 oz. 4.3”
1490T .60” 7.8 oz. 5.0”
1390T .60” 5.7 oz. 4.3”

So it may not be the thickest of recent models (barely), but it sure is the heaviest. While it didn’t take long for me to get used to it, the 1695 may initially feel pretty clunky for anybody who’s used a 3700 series model or has a recent smartphone. 

Having said that, I’ll add that the hardware quality is pretty good. I’ve gotten cell reception / nuLink services in places only Verizon seems to reach, though I have seen dead zones too.

Garmin nuLink! connected services

So what does that weight get you? A bevy of connected services including Google Local search, traffic, weather, fuel prices and more. Service is free for the first year and then $60/year ($5 per month). The video below shows some of the nuLink services.

Here are some details on the most useful nuLink services:

Google Local search

As you can see from the images below, you get a Google tab and a Garmin tab, allowing you to easily compare the results. In this search for Sushi, Google is the clear winner. And for reasons that still mystify me, Google searches are often far faster than getting Garmin results, which actually reside on the unit.

Google-local-search

Garmin-POI-search

Traffic

No real surprises here. This is the standard, ad-supported NAVTEQ traffic you find on all T-model nuvis. The ads are pretty low key, and tend to pop up when you are sitting still (see the second screenshot below for an example). One thing to note – since reception is via the cellular modem, you’ll get coverage in fringe areas where FM traffic signals don’t reach. Here are a couple of screen shots:

1695-traffic-alert

1695-traffic-menu-ad

Weather

This is another nice feature, and you can add cities at will. An add-on allows you to view live weather radar (discussed below under “nuLink Store”).

nuLink 1695-weather

 

Fuel prices

The gas prices screen can be customized for fuel type (unleaded, midgrade, premium, diesel). Unfortunately, you cannot search along route, etc. – just from your current location.

1695-Gas-prices

Other nuLink services

Other connected services under the Where To menu include include White Pages phone listings, movie times and local events. Under the Tools menu, you’ll find Flight status and Ciao, a social network / location sharing app.

nuLink Store

Garmin has built an app store into nuLink, letting you pony up for some advanced features. Currently, there are two available. One is safety camera alerts; the other is advanced weather. A 30 day trial is available for the latter. These features are not available on the previous generation nuvi 1690.

The weather app provides severe weather alerts, as shown below.

1695-weather-alert

Tap the raindrop icon above to get an animated live weather radar map. This is a very nice feature indeed. Too bad it costs extra.

1695-weather-radar

Navigating with the Garmin nuLink 1695

The 1695 updates the 1690, adding trafficTrends and myTrends.

trafficTrends

TrafficTrends is Garmin’s historic road speed database, which should result in improved routing in areas with routine traffic problems. And indeed, it does seem to work. On trafficTrends enabled devices, including the 1695, I’ve seen smarter routing and more use of local short cuts / alternative routes.

myTrends

MyTrends is a bit more complicated. It does a couple of things. One, it figures out routine travel patters for you (think home to work and work to home). Hop in your car and the destination is pre-selected. More importantly IMHO, is the fact that it can learn your preferred routes. Ignore the 1695’s directions for a few days, take your favorite shortcut, and it should start routing you that way.

Here’s some details on myTrends from Garmin’s support pages:

The myTrends feature is available on select Garmin products. When you save your regular destinations in your “Favorites,” your nuvi will, over time, begin to figure out where you’re going even without your telling it. Your nuvi will provide a predicted route which will display in the information bar at the top of the map screen. myTrends provides time of arrival and relevant traffic information in the information bar.

Please note: myTrends is a feature that does not work out of the box when you first begin using your device. In order to effectively use the myTrends feature you must meet the following requirements before myTrends will display arrival and relevant traffic information:

  • Your frequent destinations must be marked as favorites in your device, i.e. Home, Work, etc.
  • A regular pattern of driving habits must be established before myTrends will display on your device:
    • Daily regular pattern of driving takes at least three days of usage
    • Weekly regular pattern of driving such as a different destination on different days would take 2-3 weeks of regular usage

Example of myTrends:

Press the information bar at the top of the map screen in order to display alternative routes if one is available. Here you can press Go! to activate a route to your myTrends destination:

Once you press Go! the unit will begin providing turn by turn directions to your destination.

After you have an established pattern of driving habits your device will display a myTrend event within a two hour window. As an example if you leave work for home at 5pm each day, the myTrend event will display on your device as early as 4pm and as late at 6pm.

Navigation performance

One side effect of trafficTrends is increased route calculation time. There’s simply more data to crunch. A test route for a three hour drive, from my office to Charlotte, NC, took the 1695 a full 15 seconds to calculate. A nuvi 1300 did it in 3.5 seconds. Nevertheless, this did not seem to cause problems in local routing. If I missed a turn, it recalculated nearly as fast as the 1300, taking less than a second of additional time.

More hardware notes

Just a couple of odds & ends here; the nuLink 1695 uses a micro-USB connection instead of the mini-USB found on most previous generation nuvis. One nice feature is the powered mount, meaning you don’t have to fumble with that micro-USB connection each time you use the unit.

Features from previous generation nuvis

In addition to the above, you’ll also find:

  • Customizable data fields – Tap the left data field to see the options; these are different depending upon whether or not you are navigating. Only the left data field can be changed. Tapping the right data field allows you to report a safety camera location.
  • Additional data fields (shown below) – Switch the data fields to the right side of the screen and get two additional fields which can be customized; you can do this by going to Tools > Settings > Navigation > Automobile > Map data layout > More data.

1695-more-data-fields

  • Lane Assist and Junction View – These features are shown (respectively) in the two images below. Lane Assist coverage seems to have expanded significantly in the past year or so. Junction View coverage remains very limited. And no, I wasn’t going 20 MPH on the Interstate; the junction view screenshot was taken in demo mode!

1695-lane-assist

1695-Junction-view

  • Speed limit display and warning – In the image below you can see the posted speed limit and the fact that your current speed field turns red when exceeding the posted limit. In my testing, Garmin has had greater speed limit coverage for secondary roads than TomTom, though they also tend to be less accurate as to the posted speed limit.

1695-Speed-warning

  • ecoRoute – This feature adds a “less fuel” option to your routing choices and gives you fuel and mileage reports, estimated fuel cost for trips, and even a “driving challenge” to improve your fuel efficiency.

1695-ecoroute-menu

1695-ecoroute

  • CityXplorer map compatibility – These add-on maps offer advanced pedestrian routing options including mass transit.
  • Trip log – The trip log displays a thin blue line showing where you’ve gone (screenshot below). This can be enabled, and the trip log cleared, by going to Tools > Settings > Navigation > Automobile > Trip Log. You can also access archived trip logs for a record of your travels.

1695-trip-log

Garmin nuLink 1695 pros

  • Connected services including Google Local search, traffic, gas prices and weather
  • No fee for nuLink services for first year
  • 5” screen
  • Good cellular modem reception
  • Improved traffic reception for fringe coverage areas
  • Live weather radar available as add on
  • Historical road speed database (trafficTrends) results in improved routing
  • Learns your preferred routes (myTrends)
  • Powered mount
  • Lane assist
  • More customization options than early generation nuvis
  • Speed limit display and speeding warning

Garmin nuLink 16095 cons

  • nuLink servcies cost $60 per year after first year
  • Some nuLink services cost extra
  • Bulky
  • trafficTrends results in increased route calculation times
  • Junction View coverage very limited
  • Cannot customize speeding warning (e.g., for 10 MPH over limit)

Conclusion and recommendation

The nuLink 1695 is an excellent navigator. I highly recommend it for people who spend a lot of time on the road, or who don’t have a smartphone. It’s worth it for Google Local search alone.  Folks who rely on traffic coverage but live in fringe reception areas may also want to consider it. Beyond these groups, I’m not sure what the market is. trafficTrends and myTrends are nice features, but they are found on the 2xxx and 3xxx series nuvis, which may appeal to a wider audience.

More Garmin nuLink! 1695 reviews

I’ll be posting more hands on GPS reviews as they appear, but in the meantime, here are some…

Other Garmin nuLink! 1695 resources


Compare prices on the Garmin nuLink! 1695 at these merchants:


About Rich Owings

Rich is the owner, editor and chief bottle-washer for GPS Tracklog. Connect with him on Twitter, Facebook or Google Plus.

Comments

  1. I see you had more time to spend on the review. LOL!!

    Nicely done Rich.

  2. After damaging a Garmin 1690 on a hike, I replaced it with the Garman 1695. The added benefit of the full weather forecast and the gas prices are very beneficial, but the cost of it may not be. The extra trip routes also look good, but I haven’t had the need for it yet. The saving to “Favorites” of where you parked is a little more of a problem, but the walking paths you take are fairly accurate, however not exact. It does have many more advantages then the 1690, but at a cost in twice the amount of time.

  3. Just a heads up that the 1695 is $199 at crutchfield right now. Coupon codes exist to bring it to $179 with a google search. Good luck. Thanks for the review!

  4. FYI, the Abt linked page states the 1695 is discontinued – is that true with Garmin itself? Is there a successor unit?

    TIA
    Rory

  5. FYI, the Abt linked page states the 1695 is discontinued – is that true with Garmin itself? Is there a successor unit?

    Crutchfield’s pricing suggests a closeout, although they still have “limited stock” of the 1690 for $150 – do you think that is worthwhile compared to $50 more for the 1695?

    Can either one be tethered to a smartphone via bluetooth or USB instead of using nuLink?

    TIA
    Rory

    • Sorry about that double post – I did not think the 1st one “got away” when I decided to add the Crutchfield and tethering stuff.

      Anyway, I just checked out the details at Crutchfield on the 1690, and noticed 2 interesting items:
      1. They state that the nuLink subscription with the 1690 is for TWO years – is that correct? Would be worth the other differences to me if so, except…

      2. … a reviewer complains about 10-12 minute freezeups for map downloads (often at inopportune times while on the road) – what’s up with that?

      TIA,
      Rory

  6. Neither the 1690 nor the 1695 have been discontinued. And yes, the 1690 comes with two years of service. Map download / updates happen while tethered to your computer, so I don’t quite see what they’re getting at. And I haven’t heard of any freeze-ups that long on map redraws. Hope this helps.

  7. While they are not discontinued, Garmin considers the 1690 and 1695 “previous models” – you can see a list of all models in that category here: https://buy.garmin.com/shop/shop.do?cID=402

    Not exactly sure what a “previous model” is, but I guess that means it is still being marketed but will soon be replaced with their 2012 “new world order”. :)

    The 1690 and 1695 cannot be “tethered to a smartphone”. They contain their own cellular radio and access proprietary services via the AT&T EDGE network. They can use Bluetooth only for speakerphone functions.

    • Right. Tethered has come to mean sharing a data connection. The Bluetooth on these models is for hands free phone use only.

    • Sudden thought – wonder if being “demoted” to the previous model category has any implications for the nuLink service longevity as in the case of the MSN Direct service ending soon. Is nuLink used for any of the new models coming out now?

      • There was a European model released recently, but it hasn’t shown up in the US yet.

      • I don’t think you should jump to that assumption. For example, they are still selling the Nuvi 1690 and it includes a two year nuLink subscription. That would imply at least two more years of service. Two years is a long time when it comes to consumer electronics these days. If you buy a nuLink device today on the assumption that the service will still be available 6 or 7 years from now, then that may be a questionable assumption however.

        I got a StreetPilot 2620 back in 2004, less than a year after it was released IIRC. This was Garmin’s flagship model and in fact was their first device that included pre-loaded maps for the entire US. Two years ago, Garmin discontinued the non-NT version of City Navigator which orphaned the 2620 since it cannot use the new NT format maps.

        So that was about 5 years between purchasing a top of the line unit and Garmin discontinuing the maps that it used. Maybe that gives you some idea of how long they support their products? Or maybe not? It wasn’t an issue for me, since I had sold the unit long ago anyway. And of course the 2620 will still work just fine, but it isn’t compatible with new maps.

        • Hey, thanks for the thoughtful response, Boyd. That was not so much an assumption as a question considering how often bean-counting corps(e) pull the plug on products/services “out of the blue” – HP and its Touchpads being a showcase example (then again, that seems particularly inept in terms of “strategic planning”, or they would not have brought them out in the first place). I think I could consider Garmin’s abandonment of the 295W “concept” of Linux/PND/PDA/Cloud client in that vein (or its reincarnation of the ill-fated NuviPhone sans phone?).

          Well, another permutation in my thinking now is that I want to see how the reviewers (ala Rich) evaluate the new 2012 models being released now (silly as car model years, no?). Maybe there are enough bells and whistles with solid improvement of the core navigation to hit a sweet spot, and I can fill in gaps like the weather with my smartphone/tablet tether options, and not hope unrealistically for a Holy Grail PND that does it all.

          I have tended in the past towards somewhat specialized gadgets anyway to get particular functions done well, and not expect miracles of the gadgetary jack-of-all-trades devices. That seems the most sustainable view.

  8. Thanks for the responses, y’all! Good info to mull over. I was thinking about BT since my phone can tether that way with my Archos Android tablets (a “43” and a “5”) with WMwifiRouter, but it is a pain to set up when trying to hit the road right away. Also, the EVDO (Verizon) data/BT connections seem fragile, along with the issue of CDMA not handling voice and data simultaneously … but I do like the Google Navigator view compared to the typical Garmin/Magellan views (GN does need to have bigger finger-friendly controls, though, to reduce the eyes-off-road hazard – at least there are “car dock” interfaces for selecting apps that way, but that interface does not pass on to the apps themselves), and the Google POI info is readily available, along with all the other Android app goodies, including location-based weather in many apps/formats.

    Also, I don’t have to mess around with the annoyingly tedious Windows-based (gag me to the max) map update process vs the Cloud-based constantly-updated Google Maps … when available/reachable, which is the downside of “the Cloud”. The nuLink service has that vulnerability, also, but that does not affect the core map data (once downloaded/installed) needed by the nav software. Then, too, the PND’s tend to have better screens for viewing in sunlight than most Android devices, but a lot of my driving is not at the brightest times and sunny days.

    For me it boils down to which way the trade-offs between a dedicated device and a multi-purpose net out. Now BestBuy has the 1450LMT on sale this week for $150 – decisions, decisions…

    Cheers,
    Rory

    • Checking BB for info on the 1450OLMT, I found that the 1690 is on sale for $120 – another decision point! And to muddy the water further, reading the 1690 reviews I had to wonder if they were talking about the same device with all the 1-star and 5-star ratings. Seems to indicate very inconsistent quality control at least (or susceptibility to use/abuse behavior patterns, like leaving the unit in the vehicle all the time to be adversely affected by prolonged cooking in the sun? That has to have some effect – certainly on batteries, and likely other electronic components.).

      BTW, another comment about lengthy map download times for one user’s 1690 makes we wonder if those comments actually refer to satellite lock times.

  9. Well, I went for the 1695 with a great deal from Crutchfield’s (as I mentioned over on the 3790 Review comments), and now am trying to get it set. Copied over GPX/current.gpx from my old Nuvi 200W OK,(with the lifetime map subscription I have for that, I can “bequeath it in advance” to son to replace his old 330 Streetpilot with 10 year-old maps, and keep using that sub for a bit more of my lifetime for him ;-) .

    So I cranked up Windoze to run Webupdater to register and get the software update (from current 2.30 to 3.00), and the free 1st map update. Well, I did not need a .Net update this time, but, I need Windows Media Player v11 – for updating a GPS???? What The Aitch? Is it gonna play music and videos to keep me entertained while downloading/updating multi GByte software/maps for several hours?

    Oh well, jump through the Garmin goofy hoops to get the good stuff … wonder what it will be next year? Upgrade to IE 10? Outlook 2010? Server 2012? Windows 8? WinVapor 13? Yumpin’ Yiminy!

  10. Asked for what? WM 11? If that is what you are asking about, yes – the update for WebUpdater specified that I had to have WM 11 as a pre-req, then redirected my browser to the WM 11 download page at MS (even though I declined the update I think – kind of a blur now, but somehow I wound up with WM 11, and not the WebUpdater update…).

    See why I am gagged by Windoze-based installations? The complexity and lock-in keeps increasing for no discernible benefit, although I suspect Garmin benefit with a lock-in that further prevents folks from copying maps to ineligible devices.

    Sort of in line with their refusal to transfer lifetime maps with units sold/given to someone else – creates more “demand”. Seems to be a workable business model, although probably encouraging more users to “get by” with Google Navigator on their smartphones. I, for one, will see how this 1695 is comparing after a year or so to the GN capabilities then in determining whether to renew nuLink and/or get map updates.

    Now it appears I cannot update the same files I downloaded for the 1695 with the “1st hit is free” deal, to my 200w, but have to go through its own multi-hour download/install of the same version maps for the lifetime subscription. If this update process gets much more cumbersome and convoluted, that will push me more towards GN, even if it is not quite as functional as Garmin GPS’s.

    I actually can use GN now when tethering my Archos 5 (big screen, but not so stable), or Arhcos 43 (smaller screen, but more stable – neither shows up well in full daylight though) to my old WinMob phone. A little test a few days ago was not so impressive in that I had to choose between traffic view along my route from birdseye view, or have the directed navigation view. But I digress… I will get over it (I hope).

  11. Hey Rich – did you notice that Garmin quietly changed the Name of the NuLink 1695 to the LIVE 1695 just recently? https://buy.garmin.com/shop/shop.do?cID=402&pID=70853

    Do you think this hints of a new LIVE series of connected devices? If not, then why would they change the name of a two year old device?

  12. Anthony says:

    Hello, I wanted to say I love the features this 1695 has to offer, Live Traffic reports, google search, gas prices, weather, whitepages and so on. I am buying for first time owning a GPS. I realize there will be $60.00 charge after the first year. I was wondering if there are any other ones out there that has the same features and gadgets that this Garmin 1695 has? I did look at the comparsion chart.. it seems only one. Should I get a totally different one? Any recommendations or ideas anyone? Thank you.

  13. I just got this notice from Garmin:

    ” Due to changing circumstances, Movie Times, Local Events and Ciao! will no longer be included with new or renewed services. You will still be able to use these services until your current subscription expires.”

    Seems as though the Google services should still work, but not sure of that.

    R

  14. looking for the part which we connect to the charger of the navigator ( Garmin nuvi 1695 5 inch portable Bluetooth) Can you send your phone number so that i can explain.My number is DELETED BY ADMIN

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